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The Juventus midfield will be in dire straits if Adrien Rabiot walks

The draw against Genoa gave Juventus fans a first-hand look at a Rabiot-less midfield.

Juventus Training Session Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Let this sink in: Weston McKennie was Juventus’ best midfielder against Genoa on Friday in the 1-1 draw that brought the Old Lady’s recent streak of victories to a screeching halt. Starting alongside Fabio Miretti and Manuel Locatelli, the American and pair of Italians were woefully ineffective in a game in which Juventus held 57% possession. They struggled passing (below 83% completion rate average between them), they struggled creating (a single key pass), and they were not a particularly staunch defensive line.

The result in Liguria was disappointing for several reasons, of course, but for me it only induced panic for one: If, and perhaps when, Adrien Rabiot walks this summer, the Juventus midfield will once again be on the brink of disaster. The Frenchman has developed from a mistake waiting to happen to the paragon of consistency and well-roundedness; without him, as seen against Genoa, the Juventus midfield is a collection of broken toys that don’t even equal a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Still no true deep-lying playmaker

There was a fair amount of consternation when Juventus sold Nicolo Rovella to Lazio, and although I admittedly haven’t followed his progress there it does not seem like the youngster has been the key missing piece we’ve always lacked. Still, though: saying goodbye to a regista hurt. Max Allegri’s system needs a deep-lying playmaker, and as much as Manuel Locatelli tries he simply isn’t that player.

So, who is?

No one on the roster, it seems.

Allegri has tried different players in the spot at times, mostly out of necessity, but Locatelli has if nothing else done well enough, aided by the 3-5-2 formation to add bodies in the midfield and a center back like Danilo to aid in build-up and distribution. There’s been some talk about Juventus pursuing Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips; before you raise the pitchforks, I’m well aware he’s not a regista, but he’s a true defensive midfielder who might give the coach some different possible combinations.

Allegri, of course, has had defensive midfielders in the past who he’s used in other capacities — much to the chagrin of many — so many think Phillips wouldn’t move the needle in this regard. Another riddle to solve.

Still no creative playmaker

The two most creative midfielders who started the year as potentially pivotal pieces have been suspended for some time now. There’s a fair chance Paul Pogba never plays another meaningful game of football in Europe, let alone at Juventus. Nicolo Fagioli, we hope, can be back next year, but there’s no telling how this ordeal might alter his play.

This leaves a gaping hole in the side ahead of the January and summer transfer markets. One hardly expects something like this to be addressed meaningfully in the winter, and Allegri has been getting the club along just enough (24 goals for through 16 games) to make it (probably) sustainable. But over the summer, the club absolutely needs to add a playmaker. This isn’t a “nice to have” thing. It’s a necessity.

As pleasantly surprising as this season has been, the Genoa fixture, along with its midfield implications, is a stark reminder that Juventus are punching above their weight. This roster remains riddled with holes, none more glaring than the midfield. There are a handful of pieces, but there’s no regista and there’s no playmaker, and if Rabiot does indeed leave then someone else will need to step up in the box-to-box role. None of this even addresses the fact that McKennie, a year ago, seemed like he would never be back on the roster again, or that Fabio Miretti has seemingly failed to improve.

Squad-building is as perilous as it has ever been. Even in the world of state-owned clubs and seemingly endless founts of cash, clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United show how even under the best of circumstances, financially speaking, reloading your ranks and jumping into contention is far from a given.

Even assuming Juventus don’t blunder their way out of a top-four spot in Serie A, Cristiano Giuntoli won’t have anywhere near the budget of those Premier League giants; the sporting director must be both exceedingly pragmatic, exceedingly discerning, and, perhaps most importantly, exceedingly lucky.